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Friday, 30th March 2007

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The Scotsman Thu 29 Mar 2007

The best scenic drive in Scotland

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THE 10 miles drive to Tighnabruaich from Glendaruel, on the Cowal Peninsula in Argyll is not just a passage from one sublime spot to another but is a destination in itself. It helps that to get to it by road from Glasgow, you take in Loch Lomond, Loch Fyne and the Rest and Be Thankful Pass, all beautiful in their own right. But the gob smacking highlight is the A8003, running down the western Kyle of Bute.

At the start is the farming community of the Clachan of Glendaruel. In possession of a tiny historic church and ancient Celtic standing stones, the whole glen has the kind of light to attract photographers and artists.

The route from here, certified an A road although sometimes narrowing to a single track with passing places, winds up to a viewpoint at 500 feet where there is a bench and a map. From here you look down the East Kyle past Colintraive and the Burnt Islands right across to Largs on the Ayrshire coast.

The view is a breathtaking mix of land, sea and sky. In early evening the sun shimmering on the water gives the smaller islands the appearance of hovering over the sea. Time your visit right and you can catch The Waverley steaming through the narrows or watch the Colintraive ferry make its trip over to Bute - the shortest ferry crossing in Europe.

Further on, a second viewpoint above Tighnabruaich shows the West Kyle this time with views of Goat Fell on Arran and on down the Firth of Clyde towards Ailsa Craig.

If you can rise to the challenge the road is even better on a bicycle and the spot also offers great rewards to walkers and sailors. In between the two viewpoints is a parking place from where a path down through the woods intersects with The Cowal Way, the 37 mile long distance footpath which runs the length of the peninsula from Portavardie in West Cowal to Tarbet on Loch Lomond. The point at which you meet it is Caladh Harbour. With its delightful sheltered anchorage it is known throughout the world to the sailing cognoscenti - some regard it as a type of Scottish Innisfree. If you do make the trek down, keep an eye out for red deer, the occasional golden eagle, seals, herons, dolphins and diving gannets and otters.

The Vikings were famously defeated at Glendaruel in a battle around 1110. If the viewpoint on the hill was the spot where the locals placed their lookouts, it is no wonder they were inspired to rout an invading army which by far outnumbered them.

- Kirsty McLuckie

• Have you driven this road? Do you agree with Kirsty? Which drives in Scotland do you love?

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Last updated: 29-Mar-07 16:34 BST

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